Go with the Grain

Long a mainstay of juice bars and health-food counters, the hippie-chic grain bowl is enjoying a star turn in stylish cafés and restaurants citywide. Here, four creative takes on the form.

grain bowl asia mei

photograph by jared kuzia

Chef Asia Mei’s love affair with quinoa dates back seven years, to when she worked at Whole Foods. Now she’s tweaking the salad she developed there—heirloom white and red quinoa, combined with a variety of seasonal produce—for her new Southie restaurant, Moonshine 152, by mixing in grapefruit, chickpeas, cucumbers, and pickled green-tea leaves, and tossing the whole thing in a lemony dressing. Boost the protein during brunch by adding grilled chicken.

grain bowl myers+chang

photograph by jared kuzia

Riding the success of its bulgogi-beef-topped quinoa bowl, the South End’s Myers + Chang is now serving up the Green Monster, which combines farro, pistachio-lemongrass pesto, and, according to owner Joanne Chang, “literally everything green we have in the kitchen” (translation: stir-fried Brussels sprouts, leeks, green onions, kale, and edamame, plus avocado and cucumber on top).

grain bowl little figs

photograph by jared kuzia

Raised on hot grain cereals, 3 Little Figs owner Katie Rooney wanted to offer her own take on the genre at her Somerville café. Her breakfast porridge combines red and white quinoa with oats, almond milk, maple syrup, orange zest, and a touch of cardamom. Toasted walnuts, currants, and sesame seeds scattered over top, meanwhile, provide the requisite chew and crunch factor.

grain bowl rifrullo

photograph by jared kuzia

Inspired by the “Betty Crocker taco salad” of her midwestern youth, Rifrullo owner Colleen Marnell-Suhanosky created this elevated upgrade—using escarole in place of iceberg, plus quinoa, chickpeas, avocado, a spicy pickled-jalapeño dressing, and a drizzle of house-made yogurt—for her summertime lunch menu. The dish was so popular at the Brookline Village café that it’s now a year-round staple.